Thursday, March 19, 2009



“They can’t understand you,” Acaona said.

“What’re ya getting on about?” muttered Flavius.

“They’re not nobles, they’re militia,” Acaona said, as if the simple statement was as obvious an explanation as anyone would need. Flavius’ baffled stare drew a sigh from her.

“Only nobility in the Eternal Dominion are gene-grafted with a linguistics lobe, dear Flavius,” Empress Malinche offered helpfully, her cool composure recovered with the arrival of the militia. “The expense and effort would be squandered on them, after all. The only times they venture Otherwhere their purpose is to destroy the enemies of the Eternal Dominion, not have a nice chat. This keeps things simplified, don’t you think?”

“Oh. Right,” muttered Flavius, casting an annoyed look at Memory. “I ken that.”

“Your Imperial Majesty can understand that croaking noise?” the militia captain asked suspiciously.

“After a fashion, Captain...?” Malinche answered absently.

“Pacal. Captain Pacal,” he answered uneasily, unaccustomed to imperial attention. “If Your Imperial Majesty will allow, these two men will escort you to safety.”

The Empress considered the suggestion. “No, I prefer to stay and watch.”

“You Imp--” Captain Pacal began, but a sharp look from Empress Malinche silenced him.

“Now, as this diversion has continued far too long, you and your men will bind and escort the lesser sentient to the Imperial wing under guard. I expect he’ll resist, but I don’t want him injured.”

“Uninjured? But... he’s got a sword, Your Imperial Majesty.”

“You may bludgeon him then, if you must. But no open flame,” Empress Malinche allowed. “Feel free to bludgeon the Sajal, too, while you’re at it.”

The braided cages at the end of the militiamen’s cuayabs flared with a menacing green glow. Two men took up guard positions on either side of the Empress as Captain Pacal and three other men spread out, shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow apartment, warily stalking toward Flavius. As soon as there was room, four more entered to form a second rank.

Flavius backed away from Papantzin, who’d recovered enough to drag herself toward the Empress. Acaona slipped close behind Flavius, clutching his pack tightly.

“What are we going to do, Flavius?”

“Exit through the window there, lass, that’s what we’re going to do.” Flavius swung Memory, a sudden powerful blow that rattled the window.
The glass remained intact.

“This is the secure wing. The walls and windows are blast resistant,” Acaona said. “Didn’t you know?”

Flavius mouthed a silent curse, then lowered his head to hers. “Look to yerself, lass. It’s likely to get a mite rough.” Before Acaona could question him, Flavius hoisted Memory and charged the militia with a full-blown highlander scream.

Flavius swung Memory at Captain Pacal. The captain blocked with his cuayab. Memory bit into the cuayab with a metallic snap. Emerald sparks flared from the cage. Flavius swung Memory back to the right, parrying a blow from another militiaman.

“Mind your weapons! He’s got some sort of enchantment on his blade!” shouted Pacal, jabbing his cuayab at Flavius. Tiny wisps of flame escaped from the gouge in the braided body.

One was a split second too slow bringing his cuayab up. Memory split his chest open. In that instant, another militiaman saw his opening and jabbed his cuayab into Flavius’ back. Flavius cried out as the cage burned through his shirt and into flesh. Instinctively he lashed out, Memory severing the legs of his attacker below the knees.

“Get him surrounded! Press him! Press him!” Urgency drove Pacal’s orders now as the remainder of the squad pressed into the room. A dozen men total, the narrowness of the room that hampered Flavius’ full use of the long claymore also served to keep the militia’s superior numbers bottled up near the door.

As more sparks and flame shot from his damaged cuayab, Pacal adjusted his grip so the gouge faced away from him. As he did so, he pressed the side of his helmet. “Request immediate reinforcements, secure wing. Everything you’ve got. What? I don’t give a damn about any emergency you’ve got! Her Imperial Majesty is here! Reinforcements. Now!

“Look lively, lass,” Flavius said, kicking a dead militiaman’s cuayab to Acaona.

As Acaona reached for it, another strong tremor shook the palace. A sudden, loud pop followed. She looked up. Several large fissures radiated out from the center of the window.


“Cannae it wait?” Flavius shouted back, blood and sweat streaking his face. “I’m a wee bit busy.”

“The window!”

Flavius sliced open the chest of another militiaman, then hazarded a quick glance. “Oh!”

More fissures appeared, spreading like spiderweb across the window. Acaona grabbed up the cuayab with both hands, swinging it into the window. The window shattered. A million shards of glass skittered across the floor.

Brilliant!” Flavius shouted, a broad grin on his face. Glass crunched under his boots. “Now, if ya’d got yerself dressed when I told ya, I wouldnae have to do this.” He grabbed Acaona with his free arm, heaving her nude body over his shoulder. He bare feet kicked in the air. “Got a strong grip on my pack there?”

“I’ve got it. Ow! I’ve got it already!”

“I just dinnae want ya to drop it when we jump.” Flavius took two quick steps to the shattered window, and with a great lunge, threw himself and Acaona through.


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